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3 Ways Hoteliers Can Benefit From Unified Communications

Hospitality Technology’s 2015 “Customer Engagement Technology Study” found that nearly half (47%) of hotels plan to use tablets for check-in by the end of the year, and 71 percent indicate their motivation in using mobile technology is to enhance “customer experience and satisfaction.” This trend indicates that mobile and cloud-based unified communications are becoming mainstream in the hospitality industry. 

To stay competitive and thrive, hotelier IT and business decision makers are increasingly embracing a strategy to migrate their guest management and communications systems built on legacy, premise-based PBXs to cloud-based PBX platforms. Given the time to market for new guest engagement services and ROI of cloud-based technology, reinvestment in legacy hybrid PBXs for enterprise telephony is an increasingly poor, if not imprudent, investment.  Growing use of tablets and mobile devices as platforms for diverse communications across not one, but all community properties unlocks new capabilities that can be extended beyond a single hotel facility – as these devices are capable of communications in the broadest – integrating voice, video, messaging, collaboration, and presence. 

Cloud-based PBX platforms are really not like the PBXs in the traditional sense that most hoteliers have been using for years if not decades.  They are unified communications web services that transform the guest experience and streamline workforce processes by delivering rich communications everywhere – to any device and from any device.
Cloud unified communications changes what’s possible in managing your hotel. Moving staff and guest communications away from legacy hybrid and premise PBX voice centric technology buys a path toward accelerated innovation. New features and products are emerging quickly from cloud based platforms, but this is not the case with legacy hybrid and premise voice technologies that lock a hotelier into a past generation of local systems management that lack innovation and guest-focused engagement – and that are destined to become obsolete.

Now is the time to think differently about your business and the opportunity you have to engage guests. Broadsoft asserts that there are areas where innovative, cloud-enabled communications can deliver the most impact. Following are three key opportunities to consider from Broadsoft's hospitality solutions executive

Enhanced guest services delivered cost-effectively across properties
 Hoteliers must stop thinking about a guestroom phone.  Voice is just one tool.  The guestroom phone is just one of several possible points of guest interaction.  A cloud PBX strategy allows you to imagine other interactions across a range of diverse staff and guest endpoints.

Cloud-based unified communications incorporates mobile voice and video, instant messaging & presence, and conferencing and collaboration, that employees and guests can access on their preferred device. You can now deliver innovative unified communications services at multiple guest touch points, and your challenge becomes how best to innovate around this idea.  

This could take the form of high definition video conferencing for business guests in a hotel meeting room; the ability to extend services to a guest’s mobile devices anywhere on the property; the ability for housekeepers to provide real-time updates when a resort’s rooms are ready via their tablet device; the use of mobile devices for curbside check-in to accelerate the guest check-in and check-out process; or the ability for guests to view and engage with relevant information (reservation status, room service, etc.) on their in-room televisions. Critically, these UC services can be centrally delivered and managed, if needed, across multiple properties and locations.

Enhanced productivity for increasingly mobile workforce  
Communications changes productivity. We all know this in our personal lives through our rich interactions with friends and family. But it also changes hotel staff productivity and it fits the new workforce. By 2020, nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of millennials, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – and just five years after that the figure jumps to 75 percent. 

Hospitality employees are highly mobile and spend their workdays in constant motion across a property or even multiple properties; productivity grinds to a halt if they must wait until returning to their desk to communicate with colleagues, guests, vendors and management.  Cloud unified communications makes technologies available to you quickly and immediately.

While legacy systems inhibit productivity by confining this younger generation of workers to communicate in ways that restrict mobility and flexibility, unified communications holds the potential to maximize the productivity of hospitality staff by providing access to a broad range of services across all their preferred devices. The ability to enable workers to shift from mobile phones, walkie-talkies and other devices to a single unified mobile app with integrated voice, video, presence, messaging and other services can significantly boost workforce productivity.

Lower total cost of ownership
Communications is increasingly a service, rather than a technology, that you purchase.  There was a time where hotels could justify the purchase and integration of old hybrid and premise “best of breed” voice technologies.  But communications have jumped out of the building and are now interspersed with guests and staff bringing their own mobile devices. Premise technology will struggle to keep up and hoteliers will end up paying more to maintain existing technology and product investments than would be involved with a cloud PBX investment.

The cloud delivery model favorably disrupts the cost structure of how you pay for communications services.  Cloud pricing structures integrate the costs of ongoing maintenance, management & support; installation fees; employee training for any new aspects of the new system; and equipment housing & power. It shifts you from Capital Expenditure (Capex) to Operating Expenditure (Opex). But it also shifts you away from what are now Capex investments with ever shorter useful life as the communications industry outruns your premise technology. Cloud-delivered services that speed time-to-deployment eliminate many of the cost and resource headaches associated with managing IT infrastructure internally.

Cloud services also reduce costs by eliminating the need to manage complicated, premise-based telephony networks and allow for the seamless integration of communications services across disparate property locations. Finally, cloud-delivered unified communications (mobile UC in particular) can reduce a business’ IT spend by shifting time-consuming and costly staff travel to dynamic video experiences available at any time, on any device, and from any location.

The PBX Capex versus Opex total cost of ownership (TCO) calculation is a source of constant discussion.  But your next PBX decision is really not about cheap voice services. Cloud-delivered communications transforms the communications experience for hospitality workers and guests. Your PBX at end of life is a big strategic jump toward where your staff and guests are already moving. The real question is how you are preparing for innovation.
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